The Kings just can’t seem to be able to beat the Golden State Warriors. Over what feels like a million games since the Kings’ return to the playoffs, they only won three games. Last night was no different, as Klay Thompson stole the game with a tough shot over Davion Mitchell.
It was yet another loss to their California neighbors, but the game was filled with a lot of small victories that should make the blow hurt less. Despite De’Aaron Fox missing the game with an ankle sprain, the Kings kept the score close and had a chance to win instead of being crushed completely.
Rookie Colby Jones was not afraid in his first NBA action. Mitchell had a good game, and Kevin Huerter found a way to impact the game despite his threes still not falling.
The biggest of those small victories was the fact that, for once, Stephen Curry didn’t smoke the Kings. Since the start of the playoffs earlier this year, Curry scored 30, 28, 36, 32, 31, 29, 50, 30, and 41 points against the Kings. He has been a nightmare. Last night, he only finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 7 turnovers, however.
For most people on this earth, that is still a pretty good game. For Curry, it is mediocre. Obviously, it could’ve just been a “bad” night for him—the Kings need to repeat this and hopefully get the win next time before we can say that they found something—but it is a good step in the right direction to contain Curry as much as possible and force others to beat you.
Of course, it would’ve been nicer to get the win to go with it, but anything is better than getting torched by Curry and having to relive Game 7 of the playoffs.
The Kings tied something new on defense
In the playoffs, the three players to take on Curry were Fox, Mitchell, and Terrence Davis. Davis has since been replaced by Chris Duarte but the expectation was that not much would change in the defensive scheme.
Since Fox missed the game, Mitchell was the obvious answer to who would take on Curry with Duarte as his backup. Mike Brown changed things up, however. Duarte only played 6 minutes, as Colby Jones got the nod instead, and Mitchell found himself guarding Draymond Green at times.
Mitchell is an amazing on-ball defender, but he is not quite as good off-ball. So, when Chris Paul entered the game and Curry moved off the ball, Keegan Murray switched onto him, so Mitchell could still apply pressure on the ball.
Guarding Curry is a tall task for anyone, but even more so for someone who just started his second season as a pro. The youngster stepped up to the challenge, though, and even got two steals out of it. While Murray struggled with his shot, this game marks an important step in his development.
Not too long ago, the Warriors were hunting the inexperienced rookie to get a favorable matchup. Now, he is defending Curry. Brown acknowledged this change after the game.
“We haven’t been able to do anything with Steph…We tried to double-team him, we tried to single-cover him, and he’s kind of had his way. Keegan has grown a lot on both ends of the floor, so I was like, hey, let’s see if we can throw some length at him. You’re not going to stop a Hall of Famer like Steph. You just hope to make him work for it, and I thought Keegan tried,” he told reporters.
Who knows, maybe Murray really is the key for the Kings to slow down Curry and the Warriors. We will have to wait until the next game to find out for sure, but one thing is certain: once Murray gets his shot going again, he will be a legit problem on both ends of the floor.
It wasn’t just Murray, though. The entire team looked more locked in defensively than ever before this season, taking Coach Brown’s lectures about effort and physicality to heart.
Let’s see if they can keep it up from now on. The Kings face the Rockets and the Trail Blazers next in three games that should be very winnable, even without Fox, and should offer great opportunities to work on the defense.